The Rise of Fall

It’s a beautiful day in our neighborhood patch. The pink/purple/orange dawn sky was clear. Relative humidity was 45% (amazing for Florida!). No wind. Cool air invited one to breathe in deeply. Regular flights of commuters were right on schedule as flocks of White Ibises, Cattle Egrets and Double-crested Cormorants moved from roosts to feeding spots. Quartets of Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks whistled at us as they swooped low overhead.

Just like the animals we are, our routine has evolved when visiting this patch based on our prior “foraging” experience. Brushy waysides beyond the entrance gates harbor Eastern Towhee and migratory Gray Catbird. Along the shore of Picnic Lake are the usual wading birds, gallinules, osprey and fall Pied-billed Grebes. Exploring the trees around the cemetery yields a Great-crested Flycatcher, Carolina Wren, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers and Red-bellied Woodpeckers.

Our morning continued apace as we checked a few “favorite” haunts. We tended to linger longer than normal at the lakeside locations today as the mirror-like water without a ripple had a mesmerizing effect on us. Gini made a remark about how pleasant and peaceful this was. It almost made birding seem not very urgent…….

Witchety-witchety-witchety!

“That Common Yellowthroat is close.”

Spell broken. Birding resumes.

Glass-surfaced lakes, woods with rusty and brown leaves crunching underfoot, fall flowers still attracting all manner of nectar seekers, cloudless skies where vultures, hawks, eagles and wood storks soared in ever-increasing numbers. Using just our observation data we knew it was autumn. Our tally for the morning was 51 species of birds. That’s over a dozen more than an average day in summer at this spot.

Don’t be scared. We won’t post pictures of all 51. THIS time.

Dawn lookout. This must have been just the right spot as two Red-bellied Woodpeckers kept chasing each other away to claim it as their own.

With a name like “racerunner” one would think of speed. One would be correct. The Six-lined Racerunner (Cnemidophorus sexlineatus) can reach speeds of up to 18 mph in short bursts when chasing a meal. Good news for me – they like to stay on the ground as opposed to scampering to the tippy-tops of tall trees.

Fall means the return of the wrens! It’s like a switch was flipped on today and House Wrens were scolding everything and everyone at the top of their surprisingly loud voices! It was like welcoming a grumpy little friend back home.

Barred Yellow (Eurema daira) butterflies typically become darker in the dry months. The first image below is from August of this year, a “wet season” color form. The second picture, from today’s visit, shows how much darker they become. The darker color helps with heat absorption in cooler temperatures and blends with browning forest detritus.

Several areas were quite busy with yellow butterflies. This Little Yellow (Pyrisitia lisa) is more marked than some we see.

One of Florida’s most common yellow butterflies, the Cloudless Sulphur (Phoebis sennae), was pretty abundant today. Extensive underwing markings indicate this is a female.

Another welcome sound in the fall patch is the rattle of Belted Kingfishers. With over two dozen lakes to fish in, this is a pretty popular locale for these winter visitors.

Those beautiful brown eyes don’t miss much. “What IS that?” It took a while for Gini to direct my focus on what she had found. A honeycomb! Not in apparent use, it was adjacent to an area of commercially-tended bee hives. I have read that in times of stress to the main hive, bees will quickly build alternate hives. I think our recent Hurricane Ian might have caused a bit of stress!

Most of the fruit is gone from this persimmon tree but a young Red-tailed Hawk gave us a backward glare that indicated she was peeved at our intrusion. After all, a hungry opossum might come along any minute to snag one of the remaining orange jewels.

Dragons in the fall. Have I mentioned I love Florida? Male Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis).

Leave it to an Eastern Bluebird to make a utility pole a thing of beauty. Okay, to at least use a utility pole as a perch for a thing of beauty.

Fields and fences are filling with pumping tails. Palm Warblers are arriving in waves. The little songsters are actually plain looking but the more I look at the details of their plumage the more beautiful they appear.

A member of the Tyrant Flycatcher family, the Eastern Phoebe is one of our more polite winter visitors. She is kind enough to loudly and distinctly announce her presence for us. Phoe-beeee!! She eats a lot of bugs, too. And she sports a pretty spiffy hairdo. What’s not to love?

As we were heading toward the exit, we spotted a ferocious encounter taking place in the ranger station parking lot. Northern Cardinals engaged in a life-and-death territorial battle. Documented for your utter amazement.

(Warning; anthropomorphic silliness dead ahead.)

“You get out of here!”

“I will bite you so hard!”

“It’s no use trying to fly away!”

“Take that you red devil bird!”

“I must say, you really fight well and you are quite handsome.”

“Whew. He’s gone. I am still the King!”

Calendars can help us keep track of days and significant human events. Nature allows us to experience the here and now. The chill of Winter, the renewal of Spring, the swelter of Summer and as we revel in the sight and sound of avian migration – the rise of Fall.

Enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!

17 Comments on “The Rise of Fall

  1. Another exciting foray into bird-rich territory. I’m lucky to find 6 or 7 species in my backyard patch in Connecticut. The combative cardinal reminds me of one at our Bald Eagle nest site in Pembroke Pines. It was so eager to do battle with its rival in the car mirror that sometimes it started to attack even before we parked. Those ibises and herons departing their overnight gathering spot created expanding “roost rings” on the early morning weather radar.

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    • Thank you, Ken.

      Your new home has its very own unique set of appealing features. We’re really enjoying discovering some New England treats.

      Like

  2. I wonder if any of those migrants from the north were in my yard at some time this summer. Red-bellied Woodies and Gray Catbirds are regulars here. Of course they are regulars almost anywhere in New England so the odds are not in my favor. OTOH, I was lunching at a restaurant in Acadia N.P. (the only one there is) and my next door neighbors ( the lawn nut and his wife) were two tables away. Probably easier to identify them than a wandering bird from the north.
    Priorities are funny. While the mirror-like water got your attention for a moment until a yellow throat called, it would have taken me a lot more than that to become distransfixated (funny, I guess that actually is a word according to spellcheck not checking) from the pond.
    The cardinal battle royale was a nice sequence. Birds are easily fooled by mirrors.

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    • No one can prove that catbird we saw is NOT the same one you saw in your yard! So there’s that. There is also a good chance we have seen at least a doppelganger (or two) of your lawn nut as our “snowbird” season is in full swing.

      When we’re out exploring, out priorities can shift several times within a few minutes. A sunrise, a bird, a bug. We simply must work on our patience.

      Loved that cartoon!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m sorry to hear that you both had the flu. It’s nothing that a small Scotch, fresh lemon juice and honey can’t cure. Failing that I recommend a glass of ouzo. Or maybe both. I have to advise you also that I am as medically qualified as Bill Gates therefore you have nothing to fear.

    It’s rather strange that over here in the UK the flu and even the common cold have all but disappeared from both minds and bodies.

    For me in the Frozen North it seems a little late for hordes of warblers and flycatchers to arrive. But then I thought again about where you live, almost in South America, and realised it’s another hop, skip and a jump and they are where they like to be.

    And not sure why you couldn’t vote for me as the link should lead you to a Redneck Redshank image and a tick box.

    Enjoy your sunny days Mr Morrison. https://youtu.be/OwTXBBU0JLo

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    • To be fair, there has been no official diagnosis. Could be just a cold with side effects. Or hangover from too much of Gini’s home made cranberry sauce last week. We just call it “The Flu” to scare away would-be visitors.

      Yes we receive the benefit of birds not yet able to interpret GoogleMaps and think they’re in the pampas of Argentina instead of the swamps of Florida. Fun times for us but if we have a freezing temperature day the birds will be bringing lawsuits.

      I didn’t say I was NOT going to vote for you, it’s just that my decision would have easier if they didn’t have all those other images around yours to confuse me. I think I checked the right little box. Of course, I thought that about a recent election, too.

      Definitely one of my all-time favorite songs!

      Gini says thank you, too.

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  4. We’ve been awash in little yellow butterflies, too. The markings have been so subtle that identification’s been hard for me. What I know for (almost) certain is that I’ve never seen one of the Barred Yellows; they’re quite attractive. That Six-lined Racerunner’s cute as can be, and as for the Cardinal: well. When one decides to do battle, they’re hard to dissuade. One year, it took covering the car mirrors for a week.

    I laughed at the persimmon tree. A friend in the hill country’s been waging war against the opossums again this year, and losing. That said, the bare-limbed trees with a bit of remaining fruit do make for a pleasant sight against that blue sky — and the hawk is a nice plus. Maybe my friend should entice a hawk to guard duty.

    When I saw the scientific name of the Blue Dasher, it stopped me. Pachydiplax longipennis?
    What’s with the Pachy-? After all, elephants are pachyderms, and it’s quite a distance from an elephant to a dragonfly. I poked around, and maybe solved the mystery. Pachy- is from the Greek word for ‘thick,’ so there must be something ‘thick’ about the dragonfly. In Greek society, the diplax was a type of cloak used as a wrap, primarily by women, so… Do members of this genus of dragonflies have a thick cloak of ‘something’?

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    • Trying to track those small bits of yellow through a big lens can induce frequent bouts of dizziness. Sorting out who is who can do the same thing. At least for me.

      The Little Yellow range doesn’t quite extend to your area although an occasional stray has been reported.

      I was concentrating so hard on trying to get a decent image that hawk I didn’t even notice the persimmons hanging around her! Some of my better photos have been complete accidents.

      You’re right about the lonely Blue Dasher. It’s the only member of Pachydiplax. And your translation is spot on. It’s believed the “thick cloak” may refer to the adult male’s dull blue (“pruinose”) appearance.

      We’re both emerging (slowly) from a bout of flu-type stuff. No fun. We don’t like having no fun.

      Have a good week.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Butterflies? Ah yes I remember them, dragons too.
    That Cardinal reminded me of a Great Tit that used to ‘attack’ the bedroom window at our last place early in the morning, Mrs H was not amused!

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    • I should censor portions of the blog based on readers’ local seasons. 😦

      On the other hand, I care enough to share! 🙂

      Yeah, pecking some guy’s truck to pieces is one thing. Waking me up – that may be how bird hunting got started.

      Cheers, Brian!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. The Cardinals can be so funny! And you really are seeing a lot…we are too! Yesterday we saw a moth and I came over here to find it on one of your recent posts for an ID. The Bella Moth! It was a deep orange and just beautiful. Enjoy your week. We’re getting out as often as we can. I’m calling it my nature fix this week. Diane

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    • Who needs TV when we can just step outside!

      I love walking through the grass and watching as bits of orange and pink flutter ahead of our steps.

      Nature fix. For some of us, a permanent need.

      Thank you, Diane.

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      • I so appreciate your comment on my post today. You’ve been a good friend and your kind words made me tear up….again! But we did get out on the trails this afternoon and when we got up to the Withlacoochee bridge, it was such a moody pretty sky in the distance. And hubby said we better turn around NOW! And sure enough we got soaked! But we survived! lol And we already know to carry ziplocks for the cameras so they were safe. Thanks again for your kind words, Diane

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Thank you for this post, Wally – I’m still laughing out loud at the antics of that Northern Cardinal. They might have the looks, but the evidence is that their intelligence isn’t to the same standard.

    Talking of looks, the Six-lined Racerunner and the Blue Dasher are both giving the Northern Cardinal some competition.

    How amazing to find a honeycomb out in the open like that!

    My very best wishes to you and Gini. All good here, in the run-up to Lindsay’s op. Take good care – – – Richard

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    • Well, Sir Richard, there is that old phrase “bird-brained” (or from 17 century Britain, “bird-witted”). At least the cardinal FELT victorious!

      We have run across honeycombs such as this before, one was massive. Each time in proximity to a commercial hive set-up.

      Fingers crossed a prayers offered for Lindsay and her support hubby!

      Like

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